A staple of hi‑fi amps since its invention in the 1950s, the humble Baxandall EQ comprises two gentle shelving filters. Put it in a high‑quality professional product and it can be really useful, particularly in mastering and for stereo bus processing. I was impressed by just such a product, Pope Audio’s BAX 2020 500‑series EQ module, when I reviewed it a couple of years ago. In particular, I found that its Hi control offered me a simple, forgiving way to add top end to individual tracks or a whole mix. Building on its success, Pope have now developed a dual‑channel 19‑inch rackmount version, the BAX 2020R, though there’s a little more to it than popping two of the 500‑series modules and a power supply into a rack.
Not only does the rackmount version boast 6dB more headroom, but it adds another EQ option too: the Hi band of the module was fixed at 20kHz, but in the 2020R this is switchable to 40kHz. This might strike you as being unnecessarily high, but the filter’s gentle slope means that its effect can reach much lower down the spectrum, and you can use it to lift the ‘air’. The Lo shelf is, as on the original module, fixed at 20Hz. Again, while that might sound extreme, the filter’s curve reaches well up the spectrum, and it allows you to add weight or reduce low‑frequency build‑up.
When using the 2020R as a mix‑bus EQ, I could hear a subtle but pleasing sense of saturation, even with no equalisation being applied. The 500‑series version offers some custom op‑amp options, but in this rackmount version there’s a fixed choice: essentially, it’s what was considered the ‘full‑fat’ model for the module, with Avedis 1122 op‑amps at the input and driving the output transformer. It’s perhaps due to the bass‑heavy nature of some of the material I was working on during this review, but I found that I appreciated this coloration more than I did when writing my original review of the modules. In fact, I often found myself leaving the 2020R in my mix‑bus chain solely for this purpose. When I did engage the EQ, though, it felt instantly usable and familiar; a great option for gently shifting the overall tonal vibe of a mix.
This EQ is not just for bus processing, though: it’s also a surprisingly useful tracking tool. In a busy tracking session, you often don’t have the luxury of time to allow you to dial in parametric EQ settings precisely, so a tool that you can reach for to quickly nudge the top and bottom into the right tonal territory is often just the ticket.
The new 40kHz Hi option is a great addition, and one that I think will (pardon the pun!) really open up this unit to mastering engineers.
The new 40kHz Hi option is a great addition, and one that I think will (pardon the pun!) really open up this unit to mastering engineers. As forgiving as the shelving EQ curves are on a Baxandall EQ, the 20kHz option can still be a little heavy‑handed when you wish to make really delicate adjustments to sources that contain shrill‑sounding cymbals, or any midrange unpleasantness around 2kHz. I quickly found myself preferring the 40kHz frequency option on a whole mix too, when dealing with finer mastering‑style judgements. I loved that I could gently shift the overall tonal balance with a high‑end lift, without emphasising any harshness lower down.
If you’re interested in using this EQ for tracking and mixing, I think you’d be well covered by either this rackmount model or a pair of the 500‑series modules. But if you’re approaching this from more of a mastering perspective, the 40kHz option and additional headroom should make the 2020R the more compelling model.